Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in Washington

What is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the social work degree options in Washington is that while most states' social work education offerings are dominated by state universities and other publicly funded schools, in Washington, only two of the seven schools offering accredited social work degree programs are public. Now, those two public universities do account for two-thirds of the Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree programs offered in the state but still, Washington has a surprising number of private schools offering BSW degrees. According to the Council on Social Work Education, the state offers 10 different degree programs through seven schools. Three of those are MSW programs and most of the programs have been around for 20 years or more. All of this just goes to say that while Washington may not seem like a vibrant landscape for social work education, don't count it out too soon either.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the professional social work industry is big in Washington. As of May 2014, the Evergreen State was home to at least 12,000 professional social workers located primarily in either the Seattle or Tacoma metropolitan areas. More than half of those social workers are child, family, and school social workers (6,470) but there are also approximately 3,000 healthcare social workers, 2,070 substance abuse social workers and 1,040 specialty social workers that are also employed across the state. Washington also pays its social workers well compared to the rest of the states. The annual average salary of social workers in Washington ranges from between $46,870 for substance abuse social workers and $57,210 for healthcare social workers.

The Washington State Department of Health is in charge of oversight of the social work profession in the state and it approves two levels of licensure. The licenses are:

Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)

An applicant for the LASW degree will need to first earn a MSW or PhD in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited graduate program. They must also complete 3,200 hours of supervised practice, including at least 800 hours of direct client contact. During this time, the candidate must have 90 supervision hours (some of which can be earned from a distance) and they also must complete four hours of training in HIV/AIDS. Last but not least, LASW candidates must provide proof that they passed the equivalent exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). This license doesn't qualify applicants for clinical work however.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

An applicant for the LICSW license must first earn a MSW or PhD in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited graduate program. The applicant must also complete 4,000 hours of supervised practice, including 1,000 hours of direct client contact, 130 hours of direct supervision and at least 70 of those hours need to be supervised by a qualified LICSW. Finally, they must complete and pass the ASWB clinical examination. Once they have earned this license, they are free to practice clinically in Washington.

Washington Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

According to U.S. World News & Report, all three of the universities in Washington that offer an MSW degree boast schools of social work that are ranked among the Top 150 in the country. It starts with the state's flagship university, the University of Washington, which is home to the third-best school of social work in the entire country. Part of the reason for that is that the program has been accredited since 1934, but it also has an outstanding track record of helping students start careers and offers concentrations in everything from clinical practice and gerontology to mental health. The School of Social Work at Eastern Washington University is next on the list and it is ranked No. 104 in the country. It has been accredited since 1974 and in addition to offering an advanced generalist concentration, it also offers dual degree opportunities with the School of Law and the School of Public Policy. It also offers certificates in addictions and developmental disabilities among others. The final university in the rankings is Walla Walla University, which checks in at No. 148 on the list. It is the newest program and has only been accredited since 1989, but it offers a staggering number of concentration topics including but not limited to disabilities, gerontology, military social work and school social work.

All of those schools offer undergraduate degree programs as well, but there are other schools in the state that only offer BSW degree programs. Those schools are Heritage University in Toppenish, Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, St. Martin's University in Lacey, and Seattle University.

Online Social Work Schools in Washington

Unfortunately for students looking for state-specific universities offering online social work degrees, Washington has none that are accredited. The good news is that there are programs around the country that accept students from Washington into the online social work degree programs. For example, Western New Mexico University offers a full-time online BSW option with very few in-person and on-campus requirements. Humboldt State University is the other online BSW degree provider that is accredited. Students looking for online MSW programs have more options because schools like Florida State University, Indiana University and Portland State University all offer online MSW programs that do not have stringent on-campus requirements for any part of the program.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest single employer of qualified social workers in the country and Washington is a prime example of this. The chapter in Bremerton is currently looking for a qualified social worker to join the staff and the chapter in Spokane is looking for an outreach specialist with social work experience. The Department of the Army is also looking for qualified social workers in Washington. There are also a number of hospitals and healthcare organizations looking for social workers such as the University of Washington Medical Center, PeaceHealth in Longview, Providence Health and Services in Everett, Compass Health in Bellingham and Multicare Health System in Auburn.

For more information about the process of becoming a social worker in Washington, visit our page on Washington social worker license requirements.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in Washington

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
Bellingham, WA$32,320$39,800$48,860$56,390$61,180
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA$34,700$41,930$54,850$56,400$62,260
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA$30,420$42,850$55,040$56,390$59,260
Longview, WA$44,000$52,390$55,050$56,400$60,730
Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA$33,230$41,910$51,490$55,060$60,720
Olympia, WA$31,030$36,710$47,510$55,800$60,720
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division$33,070$39,900$48,650$56,330$60,740
Spokane, WA$27,780$40,320$53,700$56,400$66,050
Tacoma, WA Metropolitan Division$35,530$43,990$53,700$56,400$63,820
Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, WA$33,770$37,330$45,760$55,050$56,410
Yakima, WA$24,820$39,250$49,650$55,060$60,730

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in Washington

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
Bellingham, WA$42,850$49,980$58,120$70,320$82,140
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA$34,970$41,780$49,280$57,910$64,030
Longview, WA$30,730$48,670$57,520$70,000$84,570
Olympia, WA$40,460$46,110$55,900$67,590$77,100
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division$35,530$44,670$57,340$71,290$84,080
Spokane, WA$36,850$44,610$54,760$67,420$90,890
Tacoma, WA Metropolitan Division$42,330$52,320$60,930$71,510$79,160
Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, WA$51,600$55,600$62,670$76,130$89,990
Yakima, WA$21,870$26,010$40,890$48,840$59,960

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in Washington

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA$39,280$43,620$50,460$56,260$59,740
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA$33,660$39,630$45,650$53,760$60,180
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division$31,780$35,420$43,100$60,440$71,940
Spokane, WA$40,210$43,430$48,660$55,360$60,280
Tacoma, WA Metropolitan Division$32,720$36,010$45,110$56,530$64,740

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured Washington Schools with Social Work Degree Programs